'Brexit has saved lives as we've made our own vaccine decisions', says Ann Widdicombe

29 January 2021, 19:15 | Updated: 29 January 2021, 19:19

By Fiona Jones

Former Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdicombe tells LBC's Andrew Pierce that Brexit has "saved lives" due to the UK's ability to make independent decisions over Covid vaccines while the EU's rollout has been significantly slower.

Her comments came as European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use in all adults across the EU, 24 hours after German authorities advised against its use for over-65s.

Simultaneously, a "bitter row" has ensued between the firm and the bloc after AstraZeneca made the decision to cut supplies to the EU, citing production problems at its plants in the Netherlands and Belgium.

According to EU officials, AstraZeneca has been asked to send some doses manufactured in the UK to the continent to make up the shortfall, but the firm has responded that its contract with the UK prevented this.

In retaliation, the EU is introducing controls on vaccines made in the bloc to prevent their export to Northern Ireland.

Read more: AstraZeneca publishes full contract with EU amid supply row over Covid-19 jabs

Ms Widdicombe told Andrew that this was an example of the EU at its "absolute worst."

"One can make one very very clear statement without any apology at all, which is this: Brexit has saved lives.

"it's saved lives in the UK because right from the start we were free to use our own approval mechanisms, which were twice as fast as the EU's, we could make our own decisions about how many doses of which particular vaccine, we ordered and we got over 7 million people vaccinated."

"That means we have saved lives and we can thank Brexit for that."

Ms Widdicombe added that "we can also thank Boris for that" because Britain was invited to join the EU-wide vaccine procurement programme and he declined.

Reports have suggested that EU may say to Pfizer, that operates from Belgium, that they will "ride roughshod" over contracts signed with Britain - however this is entirely unproven.

Read more: EU told to consider legal action in row over Oxford vaccine supply

Ms Widdicombe responded to this: "The legality, I would have thought, is non-existent. That cannot be a legal mechanism. Secondly, if this what they do then we are perfectly entitled to say well we will keep all the vaccines that are being produced in the UK here in the UK until we've vaccinated our population."

Andrew asked whether the UK should approve some vaccines to be sent to the EU in the spirit of being "all in this together."

Ms Widdicombe said: "No, we've got contracts, we've ordered supplies, but the EU is in the position it is in entirely 100% down to the EU. A committee of tortoises could've done better."

She added that the EU "poured scorn" on the UK for approving the vaccines earlier, and now they are in an "unholy mess."

The EU's vaccine rollout is significantly behind the likes of the UK, US and Israel as they battle with a vaccine shortage; while there is no clear answer as to why, it has been suggested the bloc ordered too few vaccines at a slower pace.